Director's Message: Prime and Power of the Situation

July 31, 2009
Proof that a positive environment invigorates our performance.

Have you ever thought whether or not your environment can affect your moods, relationships, and work performance — your overall wellbeing? Positive research shows it can.

Ellen Langer, a psychologist who studies positive human flourishing, has done some very important work in the area of "the power of our situation." Once such study was conducted in 1979 and she invited a group of men, either 70 or above, to spend a week at a "summer camp." Yet it wasn't just any week or just any camp. That camp was a "resort" and it was created to replicate life 20 years before, and the study participants were to imagine themselves as they were twenty years before in 1959.

All the clothes, pictures, music, newspapers, magazines — the whole environment was from 20 years before. They would even address each other as they would 20 years ago. So if they were a teacher, then that's what they talked about; if they were a coach, then that's what they talked about. Langer they measured them for a few variables before and after. Once such measurement was cognitive, their memory. She found that their memory actually improved after the week when the participants took intelligence test. Equally as important, their physical strength actually improved after the week. Interesting to note, their fingers actually became longer after just one week. Independent and blinded evaluators reviewed their pre-and post-pictures and estimated that the participants looked up to three years younger at the week's end.

The Power of the Situation.

A study was conducted in 1999 about priming. Many of us are familiar with "priming" in regard to sales or advertising messages. Yet, how can priming affect us positively? People were brought into a room, and the control group were shown words usually associated with the elderly, such as old, wrinkles, Florida, etc. What we know about our subconscious minds registers words, events, and feelings before our conscience minds. During the experiment, the words or phrases were flashed on a screen for only 1,000th of a second at a time.

Post-evaluation showed that the group that was primed with negative words associated with the elderly actually performed worse on memory tests, walked slower to leave a room on the way to the evaluator and had a more perceive "hunch" in their back when they walked. And, yes, the evaluators were blind to which group was the control group and which group was the test group.

I share these studies with you, and ask, "Why not create positive environment?" Examine your work space, your car, your office, bedroom, and wherever you spend a lot of time.

Bring out the best in yourself by creating a positive environment and prime yourself for success. Create a positive environment by:

• Pictures (people, places etc.)

• Pleasant objects such as memorabilia, flowers etc.)

• Quotes

• Books, films, music

Remember, your conscience mind does not need to register or see it in order for your subconscious mind to be positively influenced. I think of this as the easiest of multi-tasking. My wish is that you think about the power of the situation and apply positive priming to your environments.

As you read this message, I will be attending the UOR conference — the most inspiring and positive environment for my professional career this summer!

Be well!
Kristine Hodsdon, RDH
Director, RDH eVillage